There are indications that the Presidency may this week show the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, the exit door.
This is coming as insider sources revealed that the hawkish members of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inner circle have convinced him to move in an aggressive and decisive manner to remove Attahiru Jega as the commission’s boss.
Sources within INEC as well as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) disclosed that, barring a last-minute change of heart, President Jonathan will go ahead this week to force Mr. Jega to embark on a terminal leave prior to the end of his year in the middle of 2015.
Mr. Jega’s removal was a done deal, a PDP source said. According to him, the hawks around Mr. Jonathan, including Ms. Alison-Madueke, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Vice President Namadi Sambo, and presidential aides Doyin Okupe and Femi Fani-Kayode, believe that the PDP and Mr. Jonathan can weather the storm of any fallout from the firing of the INEC chairman.
“They believe the APC, the world press, the US and EU will make noise, but then everybody will eventually calm down,” said the source. He added that the same situation played out when President Jonathan removed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank.
Our sources said the decision to remove Mr. Jega would open the door to appoint a new chairman, a national commisoner of INEC, Amina Bala Zakari, who would be open to jettisoning the use of permanent voters cards and other anti-rigging technologies. “Once Prof. Jega is removed, Mr. President will nominate a new chairman who will declare that INEC is not ready to use PVCs. And once PVCs are removed, it will become easier to carry out major rigging,” an INEC source said.
He added that the Presidency had been able to use its massive slush funds, sourced from deals in the oil and energy sectors, to compromise a majority of INEC officials in the states. Over the last four years, Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke has been stashing away funds that President Jonathan is now using to bribe electoral officials, traditional rulers, and even some members of the civil society groups.
It was gathered that Mr. Jonathan had distributed more than $200 million to different groups since INEC postponed elections two weeks ago.
Our sources said Mr. Jega’s refusal to be compromised in the conduct of this year’s elections had spelt his doom. “Many RECs (resident electoral commissioners) are in the party’s [PDP’s] pocket, but Professor Jega has refused even to pick up the phone calls of those representing the president. That’s why the decision has been reached to push him out of the way,” one INEC source said. He added that Mr. Jega knew that the eyes of the world were on him, and had decided to run elections that are acknowledged as credible.
Several sources said the removal of Mr. Jega is a major part of a strategy developed by President Jonathan’s team to ensure that they win the presidential and other elections by hook or crook.
While the plan t remove Jega may have been perfected and concluded, there are fears that the March 28 and April 11 elections may be shifted.
The elections were originally slated for February 14 and 28. They were shifted because the Service Chiefs told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that they could not guarantee security. They asked for six weeks to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents troubling the Northeast.
“The same reason is likely to be advanced in making a case for another postponement,” a source said last night.
The Service Chiefs, it was learnt, will tender the military’s recent gains in the war against Boko Haram to make the case for another postponement.
The military says it has made much progress in the anti-terrorism war, retaking towns captured by the terrorists and making arrests.
But, the popular thinking, particularly in the camp of the opposition, is that another shift will allow the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to perfect its strategies to stay put in office by manipulating the elections.
The strategies include:
•the sudden push for the removal of INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega and;
•the campaign against the use of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and the Card Reader – two key elements of a fraud–free election, according to INEC.
The PDP insists that many would-be voters are yet to get their cards. Besides, the party says the Card Reader may go faulty.
Almost 80% of would-be voters have got their cards. INEC says there are spare card readers, should some suddenly go faulty.
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